The Yankees entered Tropicana Field to face their stiffest AL East competition
battered and bruised — and on Thursday night, it didn’t matter.
Just as he has all season, Nestor Cortes pitched like an ace, which allowed a makeshift
Yankees lineup that didn’t get a hit off Ryan Yarbrough until the sixth inning, enough
time to break through in a 7-2 win over Tampa Bay Rays
It was the first of 19 games between the teams this season, with 10 of those meetings
coming in the Yankees’ next 25 games.
The victory extended the Yankees’ lead in the AL East over Tampa Bay to 5 ½ games.
Nestor Cortes took a shutout into the ninth and threw a career-high 109 pitches.
After two of the first three batters of the night got on base, Cortes retired 14 straight
before Isiah Kiner-Falefa made an error to lead off the bottom of the sixth.
By then, the Yankees had built a three-run, all in the top of the inning.
“Just scratching out that first run was big, especially with Nestor Cortes on the
mound and how he’s been,’’ Aaron Judge said. “You get one run and the way that
guy’s rolling, we’re in a good spot.”
Cortes lowered his ERA to 1.70, but said he still doesn’t consider himself one of the
game’s best pitchers.
“Not really,’’ Cortes said. “I’ve still got a lot to prove, I think. It’s still early, a quarter
[into] the season. I want to prove I can go 30 starts and 150-plus innings, hopefully.
Just keep my head down and keep going.”
Told of Cortes’ comments, Judge said, “I definitely disagree. [But] he can think
whatever he wants if he’s gonna keep doing what he’s doing.”
Yarbrough, meanwhile, entered with a 2.41 ERA in 37 ¹/₃ innings against the Yankees
and retired 15 of the first 16 batters he saw, with only Anthony Rizzo reaching on a
one-out walk in the first.
Rolling out a lineup that was without Giancarlo Stanton (ankle), DJ LeMahieu (left
wrist), Josh Donaldson (COVID IL) and Aaron Hicks (hamstring), the Yankees won
their third straight game after suffering their first three-game losing streak of the
“We’ve got a resilient team,’’ Judge said.
Matt Carpenter, just released by the Rangers and signed by the Yankees earlier
Thursday, led off the sixth by getting hit by a pitch, and the light-hitting Marwin
Gonzalez followed with the Yankees’ first hit of the night, a single up the middle to
bring up the top of the order.
Judge then singled up the middle to score Carpenter from second and give the
Yankees a 1-0 lead.
Rizzo flied out to right for the first out, with Gonzalez moving up to third.
With Ryan Thompson in to face Gleyber Torres, Judge stole second.
Torres popped out before Andujar hit a grounder to shortstop. Taylor Walls stumbled
and then bounced his throw to first, where Harold Ramirez didn’t get a glove on the
ball and it got away, allowing a second run to score on the play, giving the Yankees a
The Yankees scored on a wild pitch in the seventh to make it 4-0 before Cortes finally
gave up another hit with two outs in the bottom of the inning, as Manuel Margot’s
shot to right-center just eluded Judge.
The lefty got Isaac Paredes to ground out to get out of the inning.
The Yankees tacked on three more runs in the ninth courtesy of a Judge sacrifice fly
and a run-scoring double by Rizzo.
It was a promising start to an important stretch for the Yankees, who built much of
their early success against sub-.500 teams, including going 9-4 against the last-place
“To be a part of this was a lot of fun,’’ said Carpenter, who landed in Tampa three
hours before the game started and was only in the lineup because Hicks was
scratched. “I was thrown right into the fire and tried to put some good at-bats